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    Clients Learning to Live "On My Own"

    A new program at The Salvation Army's Thunder Bay, Ont., residential facility is equipping individuals for an independent future January 6, 2012 by Julia Hosking
    Filed Under:
    Territorial News
    The Salvation Army Thunder Bay Community and Residential Services, Ont., launches a new independent living skills program for its clients later this month after successfully completing a pilot last year. Called On My Own, the program was developed alongside, and is run in co-operation with, Ontario Works for people who are leaving The Salvation Army's residential facility.



    “The aim of the program is to give people the skills they need and the tools they require to keep from becoming chronic shelter users,” says Cathy Oleschuk, program director.

    “Once we get them into an apartment or rooming house, we want to keep them there. We give clients information on areas such as budgeting, shopping wisely, keeping their apartment clean and speaking with their landlord.”

    On My Own is an eight week program, involving three sessions a week. The 15 participants are identified by The Salvation Army as suitable for the course if they struggle with addictions, lack the skills to obtain and maintain housing, are regular shelter users, at risk of being chronically homeless or are in danger of losing their recently-acquired housing.

    “On My Own fits with our goal to help shelter residents become independent, that is, able to maintain their own home and not be reliant on shelters,” says Gail Kromm, public relations representative.

    Topics covered in the 24 sessions include stress management, goal-setting, living skills and assertiveness.

    “A lot of clients skip assertiveness and go straight to aggression when dealing with people,” says Oleschuk. “We're not only giving them the skills through On My Own, but helping them understand when and how to be assertive, for example, when trying to access services in the community.”

    Each three-hour session also involves lunch, which is sometimes prepared for them, while on other occasions they cook the meal themselves.

    “The clients particularly appreciate the meals, especially once they're living independently of the shelter,” comments Oleschuk. “We always ensure there are leftovers that they can bag up and take home with them.”

    Kromm shares that there were many positive reactions from the clients upon completion of the pilot sessions. The majority of participants were able to secure housing and workers were given an opportunity to better understand and therefore assist clients with other necessary supports.

    Consequently, plans were put into place to expand the program in the new year and run two groups, one for men and one for women.

    “We saw clients in the pilot program understand they hold the responsibility for their future,” says Oleschuk. “Further, the program helps alleviate the idea that the people at Ontario Works are the enemy. Clients now understand that they are simply there to help.”

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